Four more years (maybe)

One week on, a result of sorts – namely, Labor’s first election victory at federal or state level in nearly four years.

It’s now official that Jay Weatherill has pulled off the unlikely feat of retaining government in South Australia, following yesterday’s revelation that one of the two independents will be on sick leave for the next two months, and today’s announcement that the other will fall in behind Labor. As anticipated on election night, Labor has emerged with 23 seats in the 47-member House of Assembly, with the Liberals on 22 and the aforementioned independents retaining their seats in Fisher (Bob Such) and Frome (Geoff Brock). Bob Such’s health issues left the Liberals high and dry, as Labor would have commanded a majority on the floor regardless of whether the Speaker’s chair was filled by a Liberal or by Brock. Consequently, the alternatives facing Brock were a Labor minority government, or parliamentary deadlock and a fresh election. Much as opponents of Labor and/or minority government in general might complain that the latter is the preferable option, they have no reason to suppose the result of a second election would be any different from the first.

While Labor continues to govern for now, there will remain a considerable element of uncertainty until Bob Such makes his intentions known. Should he duly return after the currently prescribed two months, he might well conclude that today’s events amount to a fait accompli, and that he must throw his lot in with Labor for the sake of stability – quite apart from the indications that were emerging that he was disposed to do so anyway. Labor would nonetheless be left clinging to the barest of majorities, with the constant danger of being brought down by a by-election defeat or the defection of any member who might happen to feel aggrieved over a policy dispute or demotion.

Alternatively, Brock could decide that Such’s return marks the occasion to reconsider his position, and both might at that point throw their lot in with the Liberals. The difficulty here is the bareness of the resulting Liberal majority, and the constant need for the occupant of the Speaker’s chair to cast his or her vote in favour of the government, whether that Speaker be a Liberal or one of the two independents. The other prospect is that Such proves unable to return to parliament, requiring a by-election in his seat of Fisher. That would almost certainly be won by the Liberals, given the conservatism of the electorate and the likely absence of enthusiasm for a new independent. The Liberals would thereby gain parity of seats with Labor, and Brock would come under considerable pressure to change sides.

The question that would then arise is whether Labor’s defeat would entail a simple transfer of power to the Liberals, or the new election that much of the media is sure to be clamouring for. While the South Australian parliament theoretically has fixed terms, the constitution provides an escape clause, as fixed term regimes in parliamentary systems inevitably must. However, this is constitutionally murky in practice, with no precedent existing for its exercise in any of the Australian states and territories where fixed terms operate. The specific provision in South Australia simply provides that the Governor may dissolve the house if the government loses a confidence vote, which appears to envision him or her being advised to do so by the defeated Premier in circumstances where a new government cannot be formed. But if the independents were set on having the Liberals serve out the term, it isn’t clear that the Governor would consider that such a situation applied.

South Australian election late counting

A progressively updated post following the counting of over a quarter-of-a-million outstanding votes in South Australia’s cliffhanger election.


5.3pm. Further counting in Elder reversed the trend just noted, breaking 1485-1254 Labor’s way and putting the lead at 757, which is very likely more than the number of votes still outstanding. Counting also favoured Labor today in Ashford (347-287, increasing the lead to 820) and Newland (671-652, putting it at 656).

Noon. Declaration votes are flowing fairly strongly the Liberals’ way in Elder, a second batch breaking 528-429. That reduces the Labor lead to 526, and could send it below 300 if the trend continues.


8.30pm. The final score for the day from Colton shows Labor gained 1196-1078, putting Paul Caica’s lead at an unassailable 570 with perhaps 1000 votes remaining to be counted. The tide of late counting continued to flood the Liberals’ way in Hartley, today’s batch favouring Liberal candidate Vincent Tarzia over Grace Portolesi by 1685-1204, pushing his lead out to 1131.

5pm. A big addition of votes in Newland breaks 1426-1332, putting Labor’s Tom Kenyon 637 ahead and confirming his victory. In Mitchell, Labor clawed back 39 votes out of 3203 added, but it’s too little too late. Pretty much impossible now not to see a result of Labor 23, Liberal 22, independents two.

4.30pm. Labor has pulled a further 107 ahead with the addition of 1415 votes in Ashford, where Steph Key’s lead is now at 760 and unlikely to change much with perhaps 1000 votes still outstanding. Sykesie reports Labor now 588 ahead in Colton, with postals favouring the Liberals by an insufficient 52-48.

1.30pm. Well-informed commenter Sykesie relates that the morning’s counting in Colton has broken Labor’s way 349-262, putting Labor 539 votes in front and making life all but impossible for the Liberals. Their only hope of making it a twenty-third seat is an unlikely late reversal in Newland, where Labor leads by 543 with declaration vote counting still at an early stage, with about 4000 votes still to count.


11pm. It appears a move from postal to pre-poll counting also staunched the flow in Ashford, where Labor’s Steph Key now looks home and hosed after today’s batch broke only 728-720 to Liberal. This leaves Key 653 in front and projected to win by about 500. Nothing today from Elder or Newland.

6pm. Labor nerves will have steadied considerably with the addition of 970 votes in Colton, which I understand to be pre-polls. These have broken 491-479 in their favour and held their lead at 452. Projecting the existing declaration vote shares over an assumption of about 3000 outstanding votes, Labor emerges over 250 votes in the clear.

1pm. Mitchell continues to trend the Liberals’ way, 980 newly added votes breaking 563-417 and pushing the margin out from 373 to 519.


6pm. It appears the votes counted today were mostly if not entirely postal votes, and they are playing according to the script of favouring the Liberals by virtue of not reflecting the move back to Labor in the final week. On top of what was mentioned previously, today’s counting favoured the Liberals 808-634 in Ashford and 888-767 in Elder, and while that’s likely to be too little too late in Elder, the projected Labor win in Ashford comes down to double figures if the final declaration vote total is presumed to be 6000.

5pm. Encouraging first set of declaration vote numbers for the Liberals in Colton, breaking their way 556-425. If that trend were to play out over a total of 5000 declaration votes – 4000 having been the norm last time, but many more pre-polls apparently having been cast this time – the Liberals would finish about 100 in front. However, it may be that these are absent votes cast over the boundary in a Liberal-leaning part of the electorate, or representative of a particularly strong result for the Liberals on either postals, absent or pre-poll votes that won’t be replicated among the other vote types. UPDATE: I’m told on Twitter that these are postal votes. ECSA doesn’t do breakdowns of declaration votes, but in the corresponding federal seat of Hindmarsh, the Liberal two-party vote in September was 55.4% compared with 53.9% for pre-polls. Absent votes favoured broke 52-48 to Labor, but that’s unlikely to be instructive with respect to Colton.

4pm. The first 1424 added in the only seat that might get Labor to a majority, Mitchell, have broken 782-642 the Liberals’ way, increasing their lead from 233 to 373. If that keeps up, their winning margin will be around 800.

2pm. 1218 votes have been added in Newland, breaking 632-586 to the Liberals and reducing the Labor lead from 589 to 543. If that trend continues, the Liberals will only be able to wear away about 200 votes. However, trends in late counting can be variable, particularly in relation to pre-poll and absent votes which might be cast in particular parts of the electorate or neighbouring electorates. Unfortunately, ECSA doesn’t distinguish between different types of declaration vote in its published results.

Monday night

This post will follow the crucial late counting for the South Australian election, which has so far only dealt with re-checking of the polling booth votes counted on election night. Counting of an estimated 260,000 pre-poll and postal votes begins today, with the Liberals needing multiple miracles to boost them from their likely total of 22 to a majority of 24, and Labor hoping they might yet get there through what presently seems an unlikely win in Mitchell. Labor’s narrowest leads are of 571 votes in Colton (1.6%) and 589 votes in Newland (1.8%), while the Liberal lead in Mitchell is 233 (0.7%).

South Australian election morning after thread

The South Australian election result remains up in the air after a gravely disappointing night for the Liberals.

A grim night for the Liberals in South Australia, who needing six seats to win have only clearly won two from Labor (Bright and Hartley) and one from an independent (Mount Gambier), and will require sharp late-count reversals to add any more than Mitchell to that list. Labor can yet get to a majority if they can hold on to Mitchell, but the most likely result seems to be a hung parliament with the two returned independents, Geoff Brock in Frome and Bob Such in Fisher, deciding the issue. Another loser of the evening is “electoral fairness”, with the Liberals weak showing coming despite what looks like a win of about 52.5-47.5 on two-party preferred. I’ll have a lot more to say about this of course, but not right now.

South Australian election live

A thread for discussion of tonight’s South Australian election count as the results roll in.

As I type, polling booths in South Australia are set to close at any tick of the clock. I do so from the studios of ABC Television in Adelaide, where I’ll be standing in for Antony Green, who spends the evening grappling with Tasmania’s high-maintenance electoral system. Obviously I won’t have much to offer in the way of live commentary on this site, but here’s a thread where you can call the toss as the results roll in.

Newspoll and ReachTEL: final South Australian polls

Newspoll suggests a tight race for the Liberals in their endeavour to gain the six seats needed for a majority in South Australia, although it’s a rather different story from ReachTEL.

Continue reading “Newspoll and ReachTEL: final South Australian polls”

Galaxy: 51-49 to Labor in Newland and Mitchell (SA)

Two new electorate-level polls suggest an intriguing election night looms in South Australia on Saturday.

The Advertiser has published two of Galaxy’s electorate-level automated phone polls from samples of about 550, and they have produced the very interesting findings that Labor holds 51-49 leads in its key marginal seats of Mitchell and Newland. The Liberals need six seats to form a majority government, and with respective margins of 2.5% and 2.6%, the seats in question are Labor’s fifth and sixth most marginal. We will evidently have to wait until tomorrow’s hard copy of the paper for full results, but it appears the poll will show that Kris Hanna, a former Labor member for the seat who held it as an independent in 2006 but was defeated by Labor’s Alan Sibbons in 2010, is at the very least competitive.

UPDATE: GhostWhoVotes relates that the poll in fact has Kris Hanna a fairly distant third on 19%, with Labor on 38%, the Liberals 36%, the Greens on 4% and Family First on 3%. For Newland, the results are 44% Labor, 42% Liberal, 8% Family First and 6% Greens. With both sets of primary votes, I would have thought Labor would have been further ahead than 51-49 on two-party preferred.

UPDATE 2: The Australian reports provisional results from a Newspoll survey to be completed today gives the Liberals further cause to fear they may not make it over the line:

But with results from the first 1000 voters polled showing a two-party-preferred vote of 53-47 per cent to the Liberals, Labor Premier Jay Weatherill may still have a chance of forming minority government if swings are contained in key marginal seats.

With two thirds of voters polled for an exclusive Newspoll to be published in The Weekend Australian, Labor’s primary vote has fallen from 34 per cent to 33 per cent over the past month while the Liberal Party’s primary vote has dipped slightly from 44 to 42 per cent.

South Australian election minus two days

Perhaps fittingly, the closing week of a flat and lacklustre South Australian election campaign has been dominated by back-and-forth claims over campaign advertising.

In the dying days of the South Australian election campaign, voters yearning for the vision thing have instead been treated to a series of spats over truth-in-advertising:

• Electoral Commissioner Kay Mousley has apologised to Nick Xenophon after he was sent a letter which mistakenly told him his complaint about Labor-authorised posters saying the “X-Team policy is to cut wages” had been upheld. The letter was supposed to say the advertising was “not misleading”, but crucially omitted the former word. This prompted Xenophon to make public statements about the complaint being upheld. He rejected Labor’s call for an apology when the matter was clarified, saying the ruling was based on a “technicality”.

• Carolyn Habib, the Liberal candidate for the crucial Labor-held margin of Elder, has accused Labor of a “thinly veiled racist attack” over leaflets it has disseminated headed “can you trust Habib?”, which tenuously attack her over rate increases at the City of Marion, where she is a councillor. Steven Marshall responded that there was “no room for racism in South Australian politics”, and even federal Attorney-General has weighed in that the pamphlet was “overtly racist”. While the phrases “thinly veiled” and especially “overtly” may be off the mark, it is interesting to observe, as does Sarah Martin of The Australian, that the distinctive typeface used in the heading was last seen in the Rudd government’s “you won’t be settled in Australia” advertisements, ostensibly targeted at asylum seekers yet curiously run primarily in Australian newspapers. Nonetheless, conservative Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi won points for intellectual consistency for demurring from the party line, asking “how it’s racist to use someone’s surname”.

• Responding to the above, Jay Weatherill took pleasure in observing there was “only one party who have been found guilty by the Electoral Commissioner to have put out inaccurate and misleading information and that’s the Liberal Party”. This referred to a ruling requiring the party to withdraw and retract a radio advertisement it paid for and authorised which was voiced by Mel Calone, an independent candidate for the seat of Lee who is campaigning against the government over its handling of the school sex abuse issue. Calone said Jay Weatherill “chose not to tell parents” about the rape of a seven-year-old school student, which was at odds with the findings of the Debelle royal commmission. Personally, I have my doubts about the value of charging the Electoral Commissioner with ruling on such issues, which inevitably draw her into the partisan conflict that surrounds them.

South Australian election minus one week

Introducing a guide to the election for the Legislative Council, plus some updates from around the grounds.

With exactly a week to go, two general matters to relate:

• The Poll Bludger state election guide now comes equipped with a comprehensive review of the Legislative Council.

• Jay Weatherill and Steven Marshall squared off for the Advertiser/Sky News People’s Forum debate on Tuesday night. One hundred undecided voters chosen by Galaxy Research, as per the much-complained-about Rooty Hill RSL event during the 2010 federal election, had 38% rating Jay Weatherill the winner compared with 28% for Steven Marshall, the remaining 38% being uncommitted. All three of The Advertiser’s commentators concurred that Weatherill had the edge, although Daniel Wills’ analysis piece was headlined “Premier fails to deliver a knockout”.

And six electorate-level campaign updates:

Adelaide (Liberal 4.2%): A Galaxy automated phone poll of 587 respondents conducted on Tuesday evening for The Advertiser had Labor trailing 54-46 in the one seat which they had entertained hopes of poaching from the Liberals. The primary votes were 49% for Liberal incumbent Rachel Sanderson, 39% for Labor candidate David O’Louglin, 8% for the Greens and 4% for Dignity for Disability. Sanderson had an approval rating of 51% and a disapproval rating of 26%, closely reflecting the ratings for Labor’s Paul Caica at a similar poll conducted last week in Colton. The poll also inquired about the parties’ competing plans for the future of the Royal Adelaide Hospital site, with 38% favouring Labor’s idea of a new public high school and 35% preferring the Liberals’ idea for a privately run medical facility.

Giles (Labor 11.9%): The Advertiser reported yesterday that Eddie Hughes, Labor’s candidate for the Whyalla-based seat of Giles, was given a seven-day suspended jail sentence in 1983 for assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and loitering, following an incident which occurred “in the early hours outside a Whyalla hotel”. As the Liberals accused Labor of having concealed the fact from voters, Labor said it was aware of the arrest but not the specific court outcome.

Torrens (Labor 8.2%): Labor hit back with the revelation that Liberal candidate for Torrens, Michael Manetta, had a criminal conviction from 1997 for driving three times over the blood alcohol limit, leaving Steven Marshall to tell journalists he was “not aware of that”.

Lee (Labor 7.7%): Electoral Commissioner Kay Mousley has ordered the Liberal Party to withdraw and air a retraction for a radio advertisement it paid for and authorised which was voiced by Mel Calone, an independent who is campaigning against the government over its handling of the school sex abuse issue. Calone said Jay Weatherill “chose not to tell parents” about the rape of a seven-year-old school student, which was at odds with the findings of the Debelle royal commmission.

Hartley (Labor 0.1%): Nick Xenophon has provided Labor’s Grace Portolesi with a message of support to distribute to voters in her knife-edge marginal seat, in which she is describing as “an outstanding local member in getting things done”.

Colton (Labor 3.6%): The Liberals have promised to spend $6.8 million on a science centre for Henley High School, to be completed in 2018.

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